I missed the vast majority of Fox News’ “No Ron Paul Allowed” debate to watch the season premiere of The Wire (yes, yes, I know I could have watched it earlier on demand, but it’s easier to coordinate with a group of people by just sticking to the air date) but Josh Marshall thought Romney did a good job. Mark Levin liked Romney too. And apparently a Frank Luntz focus group handed it to Romney. Anyone else out there see it?
In the brief segment I saw, the candidates were mostly beating around the issue of who has the right kind of experience to lead. McCain and Romney, in particular, were having a kind of classic debate of presidential politics wherein the senator argues that you need specific experience with foreign affairs questions that you don’t get at the state level, while the governor argues that you need the kind of administrative experience that you don’t get in the Senate. My sense is that, historically, that kind of argument has usually gone in favor of the governors but clearly plenty of senators win nominations as well.
In a broader sense, I had trouble discerning a distinctive argument being made by McCain. The argument I often hear made on McCain’s behalf is either that Romney is too weak a general election candidate, or else that orthodox conservatives need to unite around semi-orthodox McCain rather than risk a win by heterodox Huckabee or Giuliani. But McCain himself doesn’t seem to be pushing the electability argument. Nor does he seem to be pushing the David Brooks argument that, yes, he’s less orthodox than Romney but that’s a good thing. But if those aren’t his arguments, then what is his argument? That circles back to leadership and experience, but I don’t think those issues clearly cut in the favor of a very old man who can’t really touch Romney’s experience as a manager.